!BREAKING NEWS: PLANET OBTAINS TEXT OF CITY-SPECTRUM CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT! … ‘THE MAYOR IS A LIAR’ SAY A TRIO OF COUNCILORS. TRUE OR FALSE, EITHER WAY IT’S A POWERFUL AND EXPLOSIVE CLAIM … BEVERAGE COMMISSION ON HERMANN ALEXANDER’S MAKES ONE WONDER: WAS EVERYTHING ON THE LEVEL? … plus … MASSERY LAWSUIT AGAINST THE CITY JUST MORE SOUR GRAPES FROM TWO OF THE SOUREST
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, AUG. 29, 2012) — We begin today’s installation with this exclusive. THE PLANET has obtained what a source has represented as “the entire Confidentiality agreement” agreed to by the City of Pittsfield and Spectrum Health Systems.
We will simply present the contents and not try to decipher the meaning. That will come later. We have much work to do before that. There are two e-mails. The first is from Spectrum’s attorney, Paul Holtzman, who sends the terms to Rich Dohoney, then city solicitor. The second is from Donhoney to Holtzman, agreeing to the terms.
FROM PAUL HOLTZMAN
TO RICH DOHONEY
MONDAY DEC 12 2011 4:49 p.m.
SUBJECT: Agreement regarding confidentiality
This will confirm our conversations regarding a potential resolution of the pending federal court action Spectrum Health Systems v. City of Pittsfield Civil Action No. 2011-CV-11075-GAO, are set for settlement purposes only and shall be maintained as fully confidential. Neither the fact nor content of any discussions will be disclosed to the press, to the Court, or to any party or individuals not a party to said discussions. Prior to the agreement between Spectrum and the City on any potential alternative site, no information concerning a potential site will be shared with any person or entity beyond the Mayor’s office and the Community Development staff for the City.
Kindly respond with your agreement to these terms.
FROM RICH DOHONEY
TO PAUL HOLTZMAN
MONDAY DEC 12, 2011, 9:23 p.m.
SUBJECT: RE: Agreement regarding confidentiality
The city agrees with those terms.
Now back to our planned coverage, which, incidentally, concerns this very issue — the increasingly complicated, complex, and labyrinthian City of Pittsfield-Spectrum matter, and the “they said-they said” that has developed into a might battle between a trio of city councilors and the mayor’s office, including the city solicitor.
“The mayor’s a liar.”
That’s a powerful statement, whether it’s true or false.
A trio of our Right Honorable Good Friends — Jonathan Lothrop, John Krol, and Barry Clairmont — have accused Mayor Dan Bianchi of lying to them and the council about a $100,000 budget line item. The three councilors are the liars, doing so for political purposes, Bianchi counters. Each claims to have a document trail that backs up their version of events. THE PLANET is doing our best to hear both sides, verse and chapter, as we wrestle with getting a clear and objective view of what’s what and why for.
How Bad Will it Get?
Forget about the hundred grand. There’s a more important consideration, one that is both practical and political. Practical: This could signal the building of a wall of demarcation that will be in place from now until November 2013. We say “could.” It doesn’t have to be that way.
If that happens, the citizens of Pittsfield are the losers. We could see a mini-version of “capitol-hill-like gridlock” infect the proceedings of every other Tuesday night at City Hall. It’s not so much that things won’t get done. It’s that every vote will be cast solely for political purposes. Of course, they are now, but here’s the difference: If council president Kevin Sherman cannot get a handle on this situation, “his” council will be “gone with the wind.” The 11 members of the council could come flying out of meetings like coiled snakes in one of those joke cans of peanuts. Whether he realizes or not, this has become Sherman’s problem as much as it is anyone else’s.
Political and Practical
Political: If this case causes city government to unravel, the 14 months between now and the November 2013 election will not be a time to attempt positive action for city residents (translate: taxpayers) but rather to keep jockeying to the election to come. Even well-meaning public servants will be stymied and forced to choose sides. There is some evidence of such a process already under way.
Under these circumstances, little if any of the actions of the corner office and council will be what they purport to be. Suspicions, whether they are justified or not, will be cast on every point of debate, every contention, and every proposal. Councilors will be under pressure with everything they say as people try to read between the lines. Same with Mayor Bianchi. That’s as close to an overt systemic meltdown that the city has experienced since the good old days of the Rob Tuttle-Lew Markham Comedy Hour.
The Civic Authority: A Rift Ever Since for the Poor Citizens of Pittsfield
To some extent, this fissure — The Great Divide — has been around since the last term of the Doyle Administration, when all that could go wrong for poor taxpayers did. The lies, deceit, the bad decisions, the financial mismanagement, and the rest came to a head in the Civic Authority vote.
Against all odds, We The People won a giant battle. Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski understood, in spite of a massive propaganda campaign by the other side, that the Civic Authority wasn’t about a new stadium but about the heart and soul of the city itself. A “yes” vote would have installed an appointed board (by the mayor, mostly) accountable to no one except the GOB. This board would have all the powers of government with voters left with no recourse.
Since then, the GOB has fought a war of attrition, content with making the city “pay” for its mistake in any way it can. To some extent, every misfire, bad decision, lost opportunity, and stupid action perpetrated by the corporate body of “official Pittsfield” can be seen as a function of that momentous vote in 2000. The fiascos have been many: Workshop Live, EV Worldwide, the ruinous terms of the GE consent agreement, the failure of PEDA, the failure to rebuild the local economy, the preservation of too many fiefdoms, the tolerance of too much nepotism and political inbreeding, and on and on it goes.
In the next couple of days, THE PLANET will attempt to meet with the principals in this battle. Our aim is simple: Try and understand the factual sequence of events, in as open and objective a way as possible, to determine the answer to this question:
Did Bianchi lie, as the trio contends or is it the councilors? Is the mayor correct to cast the actions of Krol, Clairmont, and Lothrop in terms of political revenge or has the trio uncovered matters of substance? Is this all about the election of 2013 or is it about the actions of certain officials going back to 2011?
The jury is still out.
BEVERAGE COMMISSION RULING ON HA PUTS LIQUOR LICENSE INTO PLAY
No harm, no foul, no further loss of license.
The charges and allegations against Mitchell Grossjung, owner of Hermann Alexander‘s, have piled up like a chain collision on the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour. The allegations including drug dealing, illegal gambling, and illegal sale of alcohol.
The leniency of the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission has made Grossjung’s liquor license a hot commodity. There will never be a shortage of fools who think they can make a quick fortune plying drunks with booze, although we have the word of the building’s owner, Phil Massery, that the new establishment will be a Little House on the Prairie family restaurant.
No Politics Involved, of Course … Right
There were, of course, no politics going on behind the scenes, even though Massery is a card-carrying member of the GOB. He’s as pure as snow with intentions that are singularly altruistic. We do remember Frank Zappa‘s warning about not eating the yellow snow.
His purity of essence: That’s evidently why Massery and his brother Jim sued the city when the Bianchi Administration pulled the plug on the Adult Learning Center being in the same footprint as Hermann Alexander’s (see story below) and why he and Jim can be believed that his potential new tenants of the Alexander’s space would not run a dive bar. Massery couldn’t have known anything about any alleged activities at Hermann Alexander’s now, could he? He was only the landlord. Two men as plugged into events as these two are certainly would be shocked — shocked! — to learn of the shady allegations surrounding the tenant of one of their prestige properties.
We hope the cleaning company hires to clean up Hermann Alexander’s knows its stuff. We get nauseous thinking about the layers of crud that have accumulated over the years when the establishment went from respectable to reprehensible. Massery knew nothing about that, of course.
MASSERYS’ SUIT AGAINST CITY SHOWED THE BROTHERS FOR WHAT THEY ARE
Phil and Jim Massery sued the city after the city went with Giroa Jery Witkowski, doing business as GDL Associates, for the location of the Adult Learning Center. Massery’s price to continue as landlord for the ALC was $66,000 a year or $330,000 over the course of the five-year lease. GDL’s contract was for $45,000 a year or $225,000 for five years. That’s a difference of $105,000 a year, savings for taxpayers, for a more central location.
Other considerations in the city’s decision included:
* Build-out requirements.
* Location of space for Family Literacy Daycare Program.
* Proximity to Public Transportation.
* Natural light.
The Masserys successfully complained in Superior Court (case No. 12-0180.) that the GDL bid was illegal because it failed to comply with the minimum bid specifications of our old friend, MGL 30b, the Uniform Procurement Act that was one of the stars when Mayor Gerry Doyle took bedraggled taxpayers through the Ed Caveny InsuranceLand Amusement Park (“You must be this high to go on this ride”). Jim Massery remembers that one. That debacle happened on his watch as a councilor.
ADA Gets Another One
The Masserys asserted that the GDL bid did not have the required parking, did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and that the GDL building at 141 North St. wsn’t ready for occupancy on July 1, 2012.
Despite adequate parking in the combined spaces of two parking garages and on-street parking and despite a reasonable interpretation by the city of the other requirements, the court found on July 16 in favor of the Masserys. GDL lost the contract, and the ALC, at last we heard, was heading to the old Hibbard School.
Not What You Would Call the Best Landlords in the World
Based on their “stewardship” as landlords of one of the scuzziest bars in the state, the Masserys should be the last ones to complain about being compliant lessors.
Any reasonable person has to believe that both Jim and Phil Massery knew what was going on for years at Hermann Alexanders. If so or if not, they looked the other way. The best reason we can think of for this was their apparent love of the rental check. Love of mammon. it’s an old story, is it not? If this is accurate, it would be odd behavior for a Rotary Club president, Phil, to rephrase the motto “Service Above Self” into “Self Above Everything.”
The Masserys were part of that GOB crew that shilled for the Civic Authority, as we discussed above, in the first item. Are they still playing the revenge game? When Mayor Dan Bianchi took away their cushy deal in providing space for the ALC at inflated rates — when the mayor to his great credit stood up to that foolishness and refused to play that game and thereby save taxpayers $105,000 — the Masserys gummed up the works. They are that little kid who, because he’s not good enough to play, takes his football and goes home, crying, whining, and temper-tantruming all the way.
JUST A NEW YORK CONVERSATION, BUT THAT SHALL BE FOR ANOTHER DAY, LOU.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.